Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The Dad-cation

What’s the next best thing to going on vacation?

When your wife takes your three kids and goes on vacation, and leaves you home. It’s called a dad-cation. You still have to go to work during the day, but you are back to being a bachelor in the evenings. My wife gave me a dad-cation recently when she took the kids to the coast for a week. She even helped out by emptying the refrigerator and taking all the food with her, so my temporary bachelorhood was more authentic. The only thing I ever had in my fridge when I was single was hot sauce, beer, and olives.

A dad-cation differs greatly from the old bachelor days in one regard. What the old bachelor me would have considered a very boring evening, the dad-cationing me considers bliss.

I would come home from work and the house would be quiet. For a while each night I would just listen to the quiet. Then, I would go up to my office and pay bills, or organize the health care files, or balance my checking account. It was great! And I would sit and think.

I never get to sit and think anymore. I’m fairly sure the human brain is only good for so many minutes of hard work in any given day. When you come home from work to a house full of kids, the brain up-time you have left over from work is quickly exhausted by your children. Rapid-fire questions, helping with projects, refereeing disputes, coloring, reading children’s books, and pretending to be the leader of a gang of puppies who are also spies who have laser beams and force fields and can also be cheetahs who are also truck drivers and jet pilots takes a lot out of you. By the time all the force field cheetah pilots go to bed, your brain just needs to be off. There is no thinking power left over for anything else. On the dad-cation, however, a man can think.

A man can also watch his own TV on a dad-cation. One of the big problems with trying to raise kids who are only allowed limited screen time each day is that you, yourself, get limited screen time as a result. During a typical day, the only thing I ever see on my TV is a Disney show. By the time the kids are in bed, I am too tired, or have too much to do, to watch a grown-up show. On the dad-cation I rented an R-rated movie and watched it while I ate dinner! How crazy is that? I also watched an entire baseball game, and even a comedy with questionable language. It was awesome.

I slept soundly on my dad-cation, too. Ever since we had kids, my nights have involved a lot of pee. I occasionally wake up to pee, but with three boys down the hall, someone else always has to pee, and 99 times out of 100, I am involved somehow. I either hear it, hear about it, help with it, or clean it up. There are far less pee-related activities on the dad-cation.

I slept well, too. When my wife is gone, the hump is available. You know the hump. The big ridge in the middle of the mattress that separates the 10-year-old sleeping divots on either side. I moved to the middle of the bed and slept on the only part of the mattress that still has its original firmness. My back loves the hump!

When my wife returned with the kids, I was well rested and in good spirits. I was also totally unprepared for their return. Now, don’t misunderstand. I missed them and was very happy that they were home, and thankful that they were home safely. I missed being a truck driving spy puppy, and I had been looking forward to their return, but as it turned out, I wasn’t totally ready for it.

Two minutes after I walked into the house from work I was refereeing an argument about who called who a butt face. Three minutes later, when one of them came to me complaining that his brother had punched him in the stomach, I looked at my wife incredulously and asked, “What happened while you were away? Have you been feeding them sugar the whole time?”

She smiled sweetly at me, the way you smile at an idiot, and said, “Honey, they’ve always been like this. Have we been gone too long?”

It’s amazing how fast you can slip back into bachelor mode on a dad-cation. They’re my own kids, but after a week off I was on total patience overload inside of a half-hour of their return. It was as if I was brand new to the whole thing. So, I have decided there needs to be an ease-in period from the dad-cation, much like getting into a hot tub slowly. You either need to be re-exposed to one kid per day for three days, or all three kids for 20 minutes the first day, an hour the second day, and so on, to ease yourself back into full-strength parenting.

The only problem with that is, your wife has been a single parent for a week and wants nothing more than to throw the children at you and run back out the door.

Oh, well. It doesn’t matter. Bachelors don’t know what they’re missing. It’s loud, you can’t think, you can’t watch TV, you can’t sleep, and your back hurts, but you wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.

Bachelors hardly ever get to be motorcycle-riding saber-tooth tigers with jet packs and exploding throwing stars.

I do all the time.  

See you soon,


Copyright © 2012 Marc Schmatjen

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